Criminal charges have been dropped against a 25-year-old man arrested last month by LAPD officers, accused of carjacking a woman outside a Starbucks coffee shop in Van Nuys and stealing her SUV with her 1-year-old son inside, court and jail records show.
The man had faced felony carjacking, kidnapping, and child endangerment allegations and was being held in lieu of $1-million bail, but was freed from custody on his own recognizance on Feb. 18.
The criminal charges were dismissed Feb. 24, “in the interest of justice,” according to the records.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said the case was dismissed, “based on video evidence that established the defendant was not the suspect.”
Several law enforcement sources told the I-Team that detectives realized soon after the arrest that three eyewitnesses “misidentified” the 25-year-old when the stolen SUV stopped.
Detectives have since developed several leads on the identity of the actual car thief and were working to locate the person, the sources said.
The carjacking happened Feb. 7 when Laurina Esposito said she stopped at a Starbucks at Woodman Avenue and Sherman Way to pick up an online order.
The boy’s father said the carjacker pushed Esposito out of the way and drove off in her Ford Escape.
An eyewitness said the carjacker hit her car while fleeing from the Starbucks so she followed the stolen SUV and called police, who found the car about 15 minutes later near the intersection of Woodman Avenue and Saticoy Street in Panorama City.
That’s where Esposito was reunited with her son, who was unharmed, and officers arrested the man the witnesses said was the driver.